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Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital announces recipients of hospital’s highest physician honor
Media Contacts
Jennifer Phillips
Emory Healthcare Media Relations
Janet Christenbury
Emory Healthcare Media Relations

For the first time, the Burson Selection Committee chose two Burson Award recipients because of significant contributions made by both David Kooby (left) and Dhaval Desai.

ATLANTA – Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital physicians Dhaval Desai, MD, and David Kooby, MD, have been named the 2024 recipients of the E. Napier “Buck” Burson, Jr., MD, Physician Award of Distinction. The award is the highest honor for physician service at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. For the first time, the Burson Selection Committee chose two recipients in 2024 due to significant contributions made by both doctors in recent years.

The Burson Award’s namesake, E. Napier “Buck” Burson, Jr., MD, was the former chief of staff at Saint Joseph’s and a leader in the field of gastroenterology. During the recent ceremony, Burson’s family spoke of his contributions. He first received the award from hospital administration in 1991 for his leadership.

“Drs. Desai and Kooby have both been invaluable physicians at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” says Kevin Andrews, chief operating officer at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “Their combined leadership and compassionate care they provide to patients were fitting for the opportunity to recognize both as outstanding physicians this year.”

The award is presented to doctors for their adherence to the Mercy philosophy and contribution to the Mercy mission in Atlanta. It also highlights recipients for their contributions to the quality of medicine practiced at Emory Saint Joseph’s and for their leadership roles as members of the medical staff.

Desai is the director of hospital medicine at Emory Saint Joseph’s and an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. He also serves as a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on an as-needed basis. In his work as a caregiver and colleague, he focuses on the well-being of both the patient and the health care provider.

Desai received his medical degree from American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine on the island of Sint Maarten and completed a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency at Wright State University School in Dayton, Ohio. He joined the Emory faculty and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in 2012.

“Dr. Burson was a true legend at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and to receive this award is a true career peak,” says Desai. “In the spirit of Dr. Burson, I hope and dream to continue caring for patients with compassion, lead in the hospital and be an advocate for physicians and frontline health care workers.” 

Kooby is director of surgical oncology, chief of staff at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, a member of the hospital board of directors, and a professor of surgery at Emory School of Medicine. He is an international leader in surgery of the pancreas, liver and biliary system, with an emphasis on minimally invasive and robotic surgical approaches.

Kooby received his medical degree from State University of New York, Downstate Medical College in Brooklyn, New York, and completed his surgical residency at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He also completed both research and surgical oncology fellowships at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He joined the Emory faculty in 2003 and has worked at Emory Saint Joseph’s since 2013.

“What a great honor to receive this recognition for and from a hospital as amazing as Emory Saint Joseph’s,” says Kooby. “Awards of this nature represent the efforts of a team. The best way to shine is to surround yourself with stars and reflect their bright light.”

This year, nurses, medical staff, administration leaders, previous Burson Award winners and the Sisters of Mercy nominated doctors for this special award. 

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